Safe-houses set up for schoolkids

Date: 01 Mar 2007
A Pretoria school is hoping that the creation of safe-houses will save the lives of thousands of children who disappear in South Africa every year. The establishment of six safe-houses around schools in Pretoria Gardens comes more than a week after 7-year-old Sheldean Human disappeared from her home. Sheldean was playing in the front garden of her Pretoria Gardens home when she vanished without a trace. Speaking at the launch of the national Save the Children Pink Project yesterday, Laerskool Tuinrand principal Pikkie van Amstel said the idea for child safe-houses came after Sheldean's disappearance. The Pink Project, which is being run by anti-crime organisation eBlockwatch, is a campaign aimed at highlighting the disappearance of children throughout South Africa, with schools, businesses and tertiary facilities taking part in South Africa, the Netherlands and Norway. "Together with our school safety manager we decided that something had to be done to ensure the safety of our pupils, especially after school," said Van Amstel, adding that they had approached parents for suggestions. He said one of the proposals was that parents who stay at home-run businesses such as creches be on standby in case a child was in trouble. Van Amstel said the thinking behind the idea was that if a child was in trouble at any time of day, he or she could run to a designated house and ask for help. "The homeowner would be equipped with emergency phone numbers as well as the school's phone numbers, so they would be able to contact the necessary people," Van Amstel said. He said they had established six safe-houses, which were positioned around the various schools in the area. Van Amstel said the houses would be marked with special boards showing children where they could seek help. The safety manager at Laerskool Tuinrand, Dup du Plessis, said the police were helping them to co-ordinate the establishment of the safe-houses. He said the safe-houses, which he hoped would be established throughout South Africa, would be open from 6am until 9pm. "There is a grave need for these houses, especially with the high rate of crimes against children in South Africa," he said. By Graeme Hosken The Star 01/03/07